If border waits aren’t shortened, shoppers will stay away despite easing of travel restrictions, officials say

Border Report

SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — It’s not unusual for commuters to wait two to three hours trying to cross the border from Tijuana into the United States; it’s become part of the daily grind.

But without warning, and seemingly overnight, waits can grow to four to five hours, and that’s when many people decide to stay home.

This is the concern that on Nov. 8, when restrictions on non-essential travel will be lifted for those who are vaccinated for COVID-19, the waits will grow as more people will get in line creating longer commute times.

Since restrictions were put in place in March of last year, people with tourist visas have not been able to cross the border to shop or to simply visit.

When restrictions are lifted, many are hopeful shoppers and visitors from south of the border will return, considering 90 percent of the business clientele in border communities such as San Ysidro is from Mexico.

Jason Wells, executive director of the San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce said last week if border waits grow to five hours, “it won’t matter if restrictions are lifted.”

The sentiment is shared by San Diego County Supervisor Nora Vargas, who is also worried long border waits will continue to plague her district, which encompasses several communities directly north of the border.

“Some of the biggest challenges on border region include long waits at the border,” said Vargas. “Restrictions really impacted our region in particular San Ysidro, they lost over 200 businesses that were actually closed.”

And Wells has stated his members have lost more than $1.3 billion in sales since restrictions were instituted.

Vargas has met with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and officials from other agencies trying to figure out how to minimize wait times at the border.

The idea is to try and add more CBP personnel, not only at the San Ysidro Port of Entry, but at Otay Mesa, including its cargo facility.

“I’m hoping this will be the first step for us getting back to some sort of normalcy for our commuters and we’re able to get back to normal especially for holiday season,” said Vargas.

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